How the In­ter­net is like an ele­phant

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

Re­mem­ber that thing you did when you were young? The thing with the statue in the mid­dle of the foun­tain, the pho­tographs and all that foam­ing dish wash­ing deter­gent?

Back be­fore the In­ter­net? Sure, maybe you were drunk, and maybe you didn’t even know your friends were tak­ing pic­tures.

Well, if you did it now, the In­ter­net might be your worst en­emy — be­cause, if the thing you did was ever posted on­line and con­nected to your name, it would pop up ev­ery time your name got searched on Google by friends and po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers. And while things do van­ish off the In­ter­net — things like po­lit­i­cal prom­ises and cam­paign de­tails — it’s also a re­mark­able sys­tem for hold­ing in­for­ma­tion.

In fact, the In­ter­net Ar­chive, a non-profit dig­i­tal li­brary, holds onto as much as it can on a search­able ar­chive known as the Way­back Ma­chine. (An in­ter­est­ing aside is that the In­ter­net Ar­chive is ap­par­ently look­ing at mov­ing a copy of its records to Canada, un­nerved by threats of In­ter­net re­stric­tions be­ing promised by United States pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump.)

But the ar­chive leads me to a story that’s ac­tive in Cana­dian courts right now, a story about a guy I’ll call “Dave.”

You’ll see why I’m not us­ing his real name in a minute. He’s got prob­lems enough.

Four­teen years ago, in Mon­treal, Dave did some­thing he now re­grets.

I’ll let a judge in the Fed­eral Court ex­plain: “In 2002 and 2003 the Plain­tiff … per­formed in two porno­graphic videos and a se­ries of un­fixed per­for­mances broad­cast live over the In­ter­net. In 2003, (Dave) de­cided that he no longer wanted to be as­so­ci­ated with the pornog­ra­phy in­dus­try and un­der­took to se­cure the copy­right in the videos so that he could en­sure their per­ma­nent dele­tion. The videos were pro­duced by a com­pany lo­cated in Mon­treal called In­ter­can Me­dia De­sign Inc. (In­ter­can). By a writ­ten as­sign­ment dated May 22, 2009, (Dave) ac­quired from In­ter­can the world­wide copy­right in the videos and all re­lated ma­te­rial in­clud­ing im­ages and pho­tographs, and In­ter­can agreed to re­move them from their web­sites and delete all copies in their pos­ses­sion.”

That seems like an in­trigu­ing way to try and re­gain con­trol of your youth­ful er­rors: buy the rights.

Here’s the judge again: “In 2009, (Dave) dis­cov­ered that the De­fen­dant, In­ter­net Ar­chive, was host­ing some of this ma­te­rial as part of its web ar­chive collection. … (Dave) or his agents sent to In­ter­net Ar­chive a num­ber of re­quests that cer­tain web­pages he iden­ti­fied be re­moved or ex­cluded from their ar­chive. These re­quests in­cluded no­tices un­der the Dig­i­tal Mil­len­nium Copy­right Act of the United States, as­sert­ing copy­right in­fringe­ment and iden­ti­fy­ing the copy­righted work al­leged to have been in­fringed and the in­fring­ing web page. (Dave) says that In­ter­net Ar­chive ad­vised him in 2009 that the ma­te­rial he had iden­ti­fied had been taken down from their web­sites and re­moved from their col­lec­tions. How­ever, he dis­cov­ered in 2011 that In­ter­net Ar­chive was run­ning a new ver­sion of one of its ar­chiv­ing web­sites and that this ma­te­rial was be­ing dis­played there.”

So, Dave sued. The case is still in process, and will hinge on a num­ber of things, in­clud­ing an ar­gu­ment from the In­ter­net Ar­chive that pho­tographs taken dur­ing the film­ing and screen shots from it do not con­sti­tute copy­right in­fringe­ment — that’s all the stuff of fu­ture court cases.

But the cau­tion­ary tale is al­ready pretty clear: there’s a part of the In­ter­net that never for­gets, and we should all make al­lowances for that.

We were all prob­a­bly young and stupid once. Many of us are old enough that we might get re­minded of it if we go to a reunion or some­thing, but at least we don’t have to wear that par­tic­u­lar hair shirt for the rest of our lives.

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